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UNESCO Report Urges Human-Centred Approach to Technology in Education

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has released a groundbreaking report highlighting the pressing need for appropriate governance and regulation of technology in education. The report, titled ‘Technology in Education: A Tool on Whose Terms?’, presents a compelling case for a human-centred vision that places digital technology at the service of students and educators, enhancing the learning experience.

The report’s unveiling on July 26, 2023, at a Montevideo event attended by education ministers from 15 countries signifies a pivotal step towards shaping a future where technology complements, rather than hinders, the educational journey. As educators and policymakers worldwide grapple with the digital transformation, this report provides a compass to navigate the uncharted waters of technology-integrated education.

Details on the Report 

The Global Education Monitoring Report underscores that while technology can enhance learning in certain contexts, its haphazard deployment often neglects long-term consequences for national budgets, children’s well-being, and the environment. The report urges policymakers and educational stakeholders to critically evaluate technology’s appropriateness, equity, scalability, and sustainability in the educational landscape.

In terms of appropriateness, the report emphasises that while some forms of education technology can yield benefits, overreliance on technology or its substitution for qualified teachers can lead to diminished learning outcomes. An illustrative case is Peru, where the indiscriminate distribution of over 1 million laptops failed to improve learning due to a lack of pedagogical integration.

Highlights of the Report

Furthermore, the report highlights the adverse impact of smartphones in schools, with their mere presence proving distracting and detrimental to learning in 14 countries. Shockingly, less than a quarter of countries have banned smartphone use in educational institutions.

Equity emerges as another critical concern, particularly magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report underscores that over half a billion students globally were deprived of education as schools pivoted to online learning, disproportionately affecting marginalised communities. The right to education, it contends, is intrinsically tied to meaningful connectivity. However, a staggering 60% of primary schools, 50% of lower secondary schools, and 35% of upper secondary schools globally lack internet connectivity.

Additionally, the report exposes a paucity of robust evidence on the value of digital technology in education, with most research originating in affluent nations. The UK, for instance, witnessed only 7% of education technology companies conducting randomised controlled trials, while a mere 11% of teachers and administrators in 17 US states relied on peer-reviewed evidence before adopting educational technologies.

Moreover, the report emphasises the necessity of digital literacy and critical thinking, especially with the rapid advancement of generative AI. It calls for sustained focus on fundamental literacy skills, asserting that proficient readers are less susceptible to cyber threats like phishing emails.

The Global Education Monitoring Report draws upon the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality education) monitoring framework, serving as a robust mechanism to track the implementation of national and international strategies aimed at upholding commitments.

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